We’ll never compromise our principles to rescue the Tory party from Brexit, says Guy Verhofstadt

We won't compromise our principles to rescue the Tory party from Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt warns Theresa May

European Parliament’s Brexit chief rejects calls for extension of talks

Jon Stone
Brussels
@joncstone
Tuesday 02 October 2018 16:33
comments

The European Parliament’s Brexit chief has warned Theresa May that the EU will not abandon its principles to “rescue” her party from a looming disaster of its own making.

Speaking to MEPs on Tuesday Guy Verhofstadt rejected Boris Johnson’s suggestion that talks should be extended, arguing that “enough mess has been created” by Brexit already.

“Let’s stop it,” he said, branding the actions of some Tories in recent weeks “insane”.

Mr Verhofstadt also rejected Sajid Javid’s proposals on immigration controls after Brexit, warning that “we will never accept discrimination based on skills and nationality, as Mr Javid this morning proposed”.

He also criticised the Conservative Party for being unable to come up with a common position on “the mess of Brexit” years after it had called the referendum.

“We will never undermine the principles of the European project to rescue a political party who is not even capable to find a common line on the mess of Brexit,” he finally told MEPs.

Lampooning a string of senior Conservatives, he said: “When you see these insane notions of some Tory politicians of the last days: Boris Johnson, his latest invention, you have seen that? He will solve the problem by building a bridge between the UK mainland and Ireland. Mr Boris Johnson is more known for burning bridges than for building bridges!

We will never undermine the principles of the European project to rescue a political party who is not even capable to find a common line on the mess of Brexit

Guy Verhofstadt

“Then there’s Mr Rees-Mogg who’s saying ‘yeah, I have the proposals for the future of Brexit, ordinary citizens and their savings can be secure after Brexit!’ and in the meantime he’s opening for himself an investment fund in Ireland, to transfer his money to Ireland.”

He added: “Jeremy Hunt, who is comparing the European Union with the Soviet Union. But in his case that is not so abnormal: he has once even confused Japan with China. This is not the first time this is happening.

“The previous time he was insulting his wife, but this time it’s something far more different: he’s insulting not us, but millions of ordinary citizens who have lived under Soviet rule for so long. That is in fact a point on which he has to apologise, I think, because we cannot take it as such a thing he said.”

Other senior Brussels politicians also used the debate to tear into senior Conservatives. Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right European People’s Party and an ally of Angela Merkel, told MEPs that British politicians would have to start taking responsibility for their mistakes.

Theresa May at Tory conference in Birmingham

“Brexit means leaving the European Union and this means losing the advantages of this Union. That is the simple principle behind this,” Mr Weber said.

“The big challenge for the politicians in Great Britain like Hunt and Johnson is probably that after March next year they have to take over responsibility.

“For the first time they have to explain to people what they did, what are the mistakes of their political engagement, and they can’t blame Brussels anymore for what is happening in Britain. That is a big change for them.”

Mr Weber, a likely candidate to be the next president of the European Commission, also called for “ringfenced” protections for EU citizens living in Britain and British citizens living in the EU in the event of a no-deal.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said: “We want a deal. Those who think that a no-deal would be a better solution are not aware of the difficulties such a scenario would imply.”

Brexit talks have been effectively frozen in Brussels while the Conservative Party conference takes places in Birmingham, owing to the instability of the British government.

The EU says a deal needs to be reached in the next few weeks, before this month’s meeting of the European Council.

The prime minister is however stuck between the EU and her own party, neither of which appear to have compatible views on the issues of both the Irish border and the future trade deal.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments